That was Thursday. Saturday I joined a group of people praying in front of an old automotive repair shop downtown. Planned Parenthood wants to turn it into their flagship abortion facility in Northern California. We held up signs as we prayed: “Abortion Kills Children.” Some were supportive, but most expressed hatred (ie, the middle finger and plenty of FU’s). To one young woman passing by, uttering imprecations, I said “please don’t kill babies.” She shot back with a toss of her head, “I’ve killed two of them. Proud of it.” We were about ten on the sidewalk, but two pro-abortion activists showed up too. One was a young man with a sign “I [heart] Planned Parenthood.” I talked to him for a few minutes. “Do you think any society that kills its own children can flourish?” He replied, “the fetus is only a mass of cells.” “But aren’t you and I only a mass of cells too?” I asked. “Yes, but we have consciousness,” he replied. “At what age,” I said “does a human being attain consciousness?” Our conversation was respectful and calm, despite the shouting from the other Planned Parenthood enthusiast. “Just my opinion,” he replied, “but I would say five years old. Up to five years old a person is not really human because it is not sufficiently self-aware.” I looked at him and dared to say, summoning patience and love, “son, do you really want to live in a world where the weaker are at the mercy of the stronger? I want to live in a world of love, not power. Is that what you want?” He looked at me steadily. “Yes, that is what I want, but I don’t believe in God.” A commotion interrupted our conversation and I went back to our group to pray a bit.
Back to the two large families at the pizza parlor. After filling up with cheesy dough, we went to the beach with a few kayaks and sand toys. The children ran about, splashing, digging holes, flying kites, wrestling in the sand, jumping into the kayaks for a spin. Many passersby smiled and said what beautiful families we had. Here were fifteen rug rats plashing about in the surf, and no one could resist their charm. I sat in the sand between kayak tours and smiled softly. Yes, these are my children, but it’s simple, really. All a priest has to do is say what he has heard in the seminary and heard in his heart. Children are a blessing. They are not easy, but they are divinely beautiful. It is not pictures of dismembered babies that converts hearts. It’s pictures of living babies, children playing in the surf, jostling for a front seat in the family van, fifteen pairs of hands folded in prayer before attacking pizza platters. Beauty will save the world.